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Nachtwulf

What makes the Spitfire such a beautiful aircraft?

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If you have to ask, you'll never quite understand. And if you do understand, you can't quite manage to explain it.

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My interest in aviation and modelling stems from my Grandfather (WWII Air Gunnery Instructor & Wellington tail end charlie) and father who between them build a huge number of model aircraft. From Hurricanes made by filing a folded 2p coin (I wish I could remember the exact technique for that trick!), non scale Bomber Command heavies from scrap wood, balsa gliders, R/C powered balsa aircraft and good old Frog/Airfix/et al plastic models in a variety of scales and of a broad selection of genres. As a result, I could recognise pretty much anything with wings that I saw on the ground or in the air.

One day, my Grandfather took me to RAF Turnhouse to see their (then - early 70s) genuine Spitfire gate guardian. To this day I can still remember my reaction to seeing it sat there - genuine, dumbstruck awe complete with goosebumps. Ever since then, I have been lucky to see many Spitfires in the air and on the ground and I still have the same reaction as I had that first time.

I cannot say what it is about the Spitfire that causes this reaction in me, especially given that it comes from so far back (probably no more than 5 years old) but looking at it with an older head it has to be a combination of the curves, the slenderness, the fact that it looks like it is flying at 400kts while sitting in a hangar and also that it takes engineering and transforms it from a science to an art. And then we get onto the noise the Merlin makes - that is a WHOLE other story!

I reckon we need to find an actual "proper" poet and see what they come up with when exposed to a Spitfire, because as you can see above, I can't even start to do it justice!

DC

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because it looks a bit like a Hurricane?

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because it looks a bit like a Hurricane?

should-have-gone-to-specsavers.jpg

Edited by MikeC

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The Golden Ratio. We employ it with planes, cars, and, of course, women.

That's the only truth.

Edited by Artie

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What most of you probably don't know is that I'm actually English, London born and still travel on a British passport. My apologies if I've offended anyone, but I think that I'm qualified in some small way to express an opinion about the nation of both my birth and heritage. I'm fortunate to have the perspective that time and distance gives, I think. And the Brits are a sentimental lot, especially about WW2, more so than any other Western nation. That is however, a discussion for another time and post.

The Spitfire may be a beautiful aircraft, but I much prefer Mr Hawker's big girls, Hurricane, Typhoon, Tempest and (Sea) Fury. I would debate their beauty (or lack of it), but they are most certainly magnificent to behold. Anything from that era has an aura that far outweighs any generated by a modern gray... thing. What can I say? I'm a Pom, I'm sentimental. <shrug>

Unless I'm specifically addressed, I'll refrain from futher comment here.

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For me it is the original eliptical wing shape that made it look so good and the Spitfire never looks as good, IMHO, when it's wings are clipped or made more pointy.

Dave

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the Avro Bison

You made me google that one. My computer shut down in disgust. Curse you!

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As a little boy when a bunch of Frog kits arrived in our local corner shop. The very first kit I badgered my poor mother to give me the 3 shillings to buy was a Spitfire. I had no knowledge of it's iconic status. It just looked right. It remained my favourite toy for a long time afterwards and of course I still enjoy the sight of a Spitfire to this day.

Edited by noelh

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Sometimes in engineering all the essential elements come together and the result is magic - the Spitfire is just that.

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The eye of the beholder :chair:

That's about it summed up one one gets past all the BoB hype.

Proportionality wise though, it is undeniably an aesthetically beautiful aircraft. Mitchell's wing design really was very clever, with Rolls-Royce were the créme de la créme of aero engines of the inter-war epoch. Coming from a Bf 109 aficionado, that's praise indeed.

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Worked on 2 of them (Mark 8 & 9) They do have an air about them, difficult to put a finger on.

Then I woke up to myself and went back to the prettiest of British prop jobs.

_4303221_zps303a9c67.jpg

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. Was there any jet more gracefully looking than the Hunter?

Of course: the Seahawk.

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I'm not a Brit so no nostalgia from me but hopefully an unbiased view of thhe Spitfire design: it's a beauty because simply has all the right lines in the right places. It's a slim aircraft but not anorexic, curvy but not bloated, the whole design is made of elegant curved lines that flow into each other without awkward angles. In terms of visual appeal, it's a design that should be used as an example in every school.

Of course the Spitfire design is the result of its function and I doubt that Mitchell worried much about the aestethics of what was afterall a combat aircraft, in any case he managed to draw what is IMHO one of the most elegant flying machines ever

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Yet despite Joe Smith developing R.J. Mitchell’s prototype over eight years by adding four more propeller blades, a mighty Griffon engine adding 1000hp, re-profiling the rear decking and wings, increasing the empennage surfaces, and loading it with four 20mm cannons, it still looks a million dollars.

…well $5m USD to be precise. :)

PeterA

46-LA561-01-002_zpsszax4mcr.jpg

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Of course: the Seahawk.

Ah yes, the Seahawk. Undeniably pure of line, but I remember one of my colleagues trying to describe a 1950s aircraft thus: "You know, it's that naval thing that, if you asked any 5 year old to draw a plane, would draw it."

I got it in one. :)

regards,

Martin

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Martin, that's a good description!

And the Brits are a sentimental lot, especially about WW2, more so than any other Western nation. That is however, a discussion for another time and post.

Unless I'm specifically addressed, I'll refrain from futher comment here.

OK, Rob, consider this a specific address. I'm a Yank, but I agree with you. I would venture to suggest that there's a "two sides of the coin" explanation: 1) It was "their finest hour" (Churchill romanticized it even as it was happening), and 2) Winning the war cost Britain it's Great-ness, so it is one of those noble "deaths" that they're so fond of, with Scott (& Co.) being the most common example.

For me it is the original eliptical wing shape that made it look so good and the Spitfire never looks as good, IMHO, when it's wings are clipped or made more pointy.

Dave, I agree with the pointy, but I'm rather fond of the FR.XIV. I'm not usually one for "hot-rodding", but that is the ultimate hot-rodded Spitfire to me, with overstuffed engine compartment, lowered top-line, clipped wing...

No time to give my own attempt at an answer (other than "EVERYTHING"!) so I'll do it later...

p.s. Peter, that's not a Spitfire :winkgrin:

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because it looks like a bit like a Hurricane?

should-have-gone-to-specsavers.jpg

ZZZZZZZ,......Some people just have no taste,.....or sense of humour/ irony,......shame!

Edited by tonyot

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Au contraire Tony, but I'm sorry, I couldn't resist it :wicked::)

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Theres a definite grace to the Spit- I think that's what makes it so beautiful - the way all the curves work together- the way the elliptical wing blends into the fuselage with the elegant swoosh of that long karman fairing. It's just very nicely proportioned, and like any true beauty it's slightly understated; so that one just has to catch a glimpse from a certain angle, and that shape sings.

Jonners

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One thing I haven't seen anybody mention yet (if so, sorry) is "smoothness". Yes, that gets lost somewhat as time goes on, not always in a bad way (see my earlier comment about FR.XIV). For me, that's part of it- the sleek, flowing lines, without an excess of blobs and bulges scabbed on. Overall nice proportions (sometimes the first generation Merlins look a trifle snub-nosed to me, but that's fixed with the Merlin 61). Not just the shape of the wing, but the way it is complemented by the shape of the stab/elevator. And slender, which brings me to...

Mr. Camm's designs- the monoplanes, anyway- started out utilitarian and improved as they evolved. The Hurri is "alright" (sorry Tony and Troy) and the Typhoon, especially in production form, was if anything a step backwards. He made a great leap forwards, however, with the Tempest V (is it any accident that Camm was said to have grumbled that the bloody Air Ministry wouldn't buy anything that wasn't shaped like a Spitfire? (I'm thinking of the new wing)) With the Centaurus and a little inspiration from Focke Wulf the Tempest II wasn't bad in a bigger, brutish way, and the Sea Fury certainly did as much as one could to make up for that. But some guys like 'em big and round, others like 'em small and lithe....

Come the jet age, and it was clear that Mr. Camm had again managed to integrate function and form, whereas it was equally clear that Joe Smith just didn't have that artistic flair. Still, as beautiful as the Hunter is, without the dog tooth the wing planform is a bit "crude" in the same way that the Hurri's and Typhoon's is. Just a bit basic and blunt.

bob

p.s. In terms of pure aesthetics, the best one to me is the PR.XI, in Danish markings (that splash of red goes so well with the blue). Even with the slightly pronounced chin.

Edited by gingerbob

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Come the jet age, and it was clear that Mr. Camm had again managed to integrate function and form, whereas it was equally clear that Joe Smith just didn't have that artistic flair. Still, as beautiful as the Hunter is, without the dog tooth the wing planform is a bit "crude" in the same way that the Hurri's and Typhoon's is. Just a bit basic and blunt.

bob

It's funny how the Hunter looks to me to have all the characteristics of the Spit, it's slim and curvy in a similar way with proportions that are just right. Even the addition of the "Sabrinas" didn't detract from the overall elegance, in the same way as the rocker covers on the Griffon engined Spit variants did not make these less attractive.

Supermarine's jet fighters on the other hand were always too fat for my taste and lacked the right proportions. Some design aspects of all 3 were also quite "baroque", as if the lesson of the Spitfire was lost and the design team went back to the Type 224 for inspiration...

Edited by Giorgio N

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It's such a subjective area this and difficult to narrow down. In my view all marks have a certain slim sleekness to them that few other aircraft can match. Almost like a very well bred racehorse. It also looks beautifully proportioned. The only mark that loses this a little is the Seafire XVII I think because the curved windscreen foreshortens the nose. Such a small thing which makes such a big difference. Not that I don't think this mark is a beauty though. I also think that as the engine and spinner got bigger the fin/rudder got bigger which managed to keep the proportions right.

It's interesting that, to my eyes at least, the Mk1 looks to have an art deco influence whereas the last marks look very much 50s designs. A tribute to Joe Smith and his team because they certainly got everything they could out of the design.

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You made me google that one. My computer shut down in disgust. Curse you!

Try typing in Blackburn Blackburd and see what happens.

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